The bottom line when dealing with roaming charges in your travels is to always plan ahead to understand both your needs in terms of personal phone usage, and the service fees that you would be subject to in foreign countries.
What are Roaming Charges?
Roaming generally refers to using your mobile phone in an area that is outside of the network that your phone carrier covers. A domestic example of roaming would be if you were a Wind Mobile customer who decided to use their phone in a town where the only providers were Bell and Rogers. In this instance, since Wind Mobile would not be available to provide you service, you would have to “roam” on another network and be subject to additional fees from the local service provider.
When roaming occurs internationally, such as using a phone with a Canadian service plan on a European network, you could be subject to very high roaming charges for your phone use. Therefore it is important to keep several points in mind when planning out your phone use in a foreign country.
Common Strategies for Dealing with Roaming Charges
Turning off Data and Making Use of Wi-Fi
A highly recommended step to take once you have left your home country is to turn off the data service on your smartphone. In many countries such as Canada, data and text messaging services are not subject to long distance charges domestically. Yet when travelling internationally both of these services are subject to roaming fees alongside traditional voice time. It would be wise to use your data service sparingly, and to disable push features on your smartphone’s email applications in order to avoid high roaming charges.
Moreover, if you are in need of internet service it is always best to seek out Wi-Fi hotspots such cafes, bars, and hotel lobbies for free internet access rather than roaming for a data connection. Once you are connected to a Wi-Fi zone you can use services such as Blackberry Messenger, iMessage, and WhatsApp as substitutes for regular text messaging, or conduct phone calls through Skype for free.
Purchasing Roaming Packages
Another solution to avoiding the issue of international roaming charges is to contact your mobile phone carrier prior to travelling, to purchase a roaming package. While doing so would certainly be better than simply travelling abroad with your current plan and making liberal use of your mobile phone, it should be noted that most roaming packages from major Canadian carriers are far from cheap. For just 15 minutes of talk time in Western Europe, major carriers like Rogers charge upwards of $40. If you do decide to go the roaming package route, it is important to be very conscious about your phone use.
Opting for a Local SIM Card to Avoid Roaming Charges
Perhaps the best option when visiting another country for an extended period of time would be to purchase a local SIM card as a means avoiding roaming charges. While this might mean having to pay for multiple service plans, if you are locked into a contract at home, it might save you money if you are a heavy phone user.
Most modern smartphones, such as Apple, Android, and Blackberry devices, allow the user to swap out their SIM cards if they wish to switch service providers. Therefore by visiting the retail store of most major telecommunications companies abroad, such as Verizon and AT&T in the United States, or Vodafone and Orange in Europe, you should easily be able to replace your Canadian SIM Card with a local SIM card and avoid roaming charges altogether.
Conclusion: Plan Ahead for Roaming Charges
While all three of the aforementioned options are important to consider when planning for your next trip, their effectiveness is always dependent on what your personal requirements as a phone user in a foreign country. Plan ahead and avoid excessive roaming charges!